A toddler walks a dog along a country track. He heads toward the camera. There is a line of trees behind the boy, and grass turns to scrubland on either side. The child wears a striped jacket and green rain boots. The light is autumnal. The dog, large, has a stoic expression. It knows the score. With the red leash tight, the boy veers to the side of the track to walk through a shallow puddle. This done, he looks at the dog, carefully puts the leash on the ground, and returns to walk back and forth through the puddle, at increasing speed, about half a dozen times. Sated, the kid returns to the waiting dog, picks up the leash, and continues his progress toward the camera. The image fades.
The video is called “Best Friends — A Kid, a Dog, and a Puddle.” It has 12,550,490 views and is accompanied by the text “Arthur’s Dad has just written a beautifully illustrated children’s book
Regardless of Dad’s desire for us to buy his book, the video makes for compulsive viewing. Why? Because adult life is an attempt to recover the joy once felt when splashing in puddles.
The First Puddle
I first splashed puddles in Wellington, Somerset. Somerset is an English county briefly featured in the 1998 X-Files movie, which was thrilling at the time.
You get a sense of what growing up here was like if a five-second scene in a movie with a 64 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes gets cheers in the local cinema.
There’s a Wellington in Florida, too, home to the world’s largest strawberry patch. There’s one in Washington, the site of the United States’ most deadly avalanche. The Wellington in Ohio was the location of the Oberlin-Wellington rescue of 1858. Here, a group of abolitionists freed escaped slave John Price from the detention of U.S. marshals and arranged his escape to Canada. And, obviously, there’s the Wellington in New Zealand, both the national capital and scene of the first meeting between Jermaine and Clement of The Flight of the Conchords.
But all these Wellingtons are fake Wellingtons. My Wellington is the original Wellington. The ur-Wellington. So how did the small Somerset town spread its name across the world? When the British government wanted to ennoble Arthur Wellesley in thanks for his defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, it looked for the British town with a name closest to Wellesley. The government found Wellington, and Arthur Wellesley became its duke.
Wellington’s independent cinema, still open despite everything, is called the Wellesley. I remember attending Saturday morning kids’ shows there. They’d play Blondie before the feature presentation, as if the owners had given up on music in 1979. The lights falling was a cue for a candy floss riot. Whatever movie was showing — I remember Flight of the Navigator and an Ewok film — sweets would be chucked continuously throughout, and the shouting was often so loud that you couldn’t hear the film’s dialogue. The manager, a tall, gray-haired man who could have been 150 to us kids, would climb onto the narrow stage in front of the screen and demand that the auditorium behaved. Once, a shoe was chucked at him. It flew past his head and struck the screen behind, rippling the material like a stone dropped in water. I remembered this when the Iraqi reporter chucked a shoe at President Bush, a moment described on Wikipedia as the “Bush shoeing incident.”
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